Antwerp: AEL claims police racism

The Arab European League (AEL) intend to sue the Antwerp police department, whom they blame of acting in a racist fashion after the murder of Mohammed Achrak at the end of 2002. The AEL bases itself on the blog of Bart Debie, former Antwerp police commissioner and current municipality counsel member of Vlaams Belang.

Debie wrote in his blog that agents were ordered to treat the Moroccan groups in Borgerhout roughly, regardless of whether they did anything wrong or not. According to Debie it was sufficient to be Moroccan in order to be treated roughly and arrested.

Debie wrote this in his blog regarding the testimony of former police head Luc Lamine during the AEL appeal trial. According to the AEL, Debie's words show how "systematically and structurally" the Antwerp police is racist.

The AEL recorded the Debie's text by the court bailiff and will make sure that people who were present at the time and were victims of "police racism" will sue the police. They will also check out the possibility of prosecuting higher functionaries or other politicians.

Meanwhile, sociologist Ludo De Witte, a witness in the appeal trial in Antwerp, says that the judge who sentenced Dyab Abou Jahjah (36) and Ahmed Azzuz (32) of the AEL, relied on the false testimony of police inspector A.A.

A.A. had said hat he had heard Abou Jahjah inciting a large group of youth in Arabic: don't be taken by the police, there is but one God called Allah. Stay together, together we're strong against the police. Whoever doesn't follow us is a hypocrite, they [the police] are the reason for the death of our brother, fight back!"

Abou Jahjah always denied he said those things, but the court did not doubt that truthfulness of A.A.'s statement. Ludo De Witte says that was a mistake. On april 23, 2008, four months after the Abou Jahjah and Azzuz trial, he published an article in Knack magazine where he quote an anonymous police agent.

"He told me that A.A. was never in the area of Abou Jahjah. My anonymous source was there, from the moment that Aou Jahjah arrived at the Turnhoutsebaan and till he left again. According to him he had spoken to a group of youth barely one time, but he only said they should keep calm. He never used inciting language."

A.A. and another colleague were pressured from above to make a statement against Abou Jahjah. De Witte's source had kept silent for years out of fear of reprisals.

De Witte says it's not only about dubious statements of two agents, but also about various other agents who were involved in setting up these statements. There was a general atmosphere in the police which wasn't favorable for the AEL, and that's why it's understandable his source kept quiet rather than risking his job. He was so shocked by the court verdict that he decided to speak up.

Chief Police Officer Luc Lamine said earlier during the day that did not know of any pressure. "I only know that an agent told me that he had heard Abou Jahjah speak inciting language and I had then advised him to draw up a statement. Which agent that was, I don't know anymore."

Journalist Jef Lambrecht also testified. He was there at the time of the events, but had never heard Abou Jahjah raise his voice, and had not seen him stir up a crowd.

On May 31st, Abou Jahjah will fly back to Lebanon where he now lives and works, and therefore the trial will continue on September 8th.

Sources: HLN 1, 2 (Dutch)

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